In honor of Independence Day, Amend the Declaration of Independence?
Other Thoughts as Well
On July 4, 1776, The Declaration of Independence was formally adopted by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia by fifty-six founding fathers, risking death by hanging from the British for their sedition. Thus was born our country, the United States of America out of thirteen colonies governed by England.
Most if not all of us will agree that the declaration, along with the Constitution, is the most important document that exists in American history. The Constitution has been amended twenty-seven times, but the declaration, a historic proclamation rather than supreme legal provisions, so far reaching, so dynamic, has never been altered, to my knowledge--its idealism is music to our ears.
But there is one excruciating contradiction I have written about before; how can all "men" be created equal if a few paragraphs down our Native Americans are called "merciless savages, whose known rule of warfare . . . is undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions," encouraged in these acts by the King of Britain's "Absolute tyranny."
I modestly propose that some action be taken, I don't know what. There is currently a debate about what to do with racism in the literature assigned to our students in the primary and secondary grades. It is part of history. At the same time it is hideously offensive. I was just reading this morning about D. W. Griffith's film The Birth of a Nation, controversial for the same reasons, but unlikely to be viewed in a classroom setting.
Other sorts of contradiction exist in other hallowed documents; hypocrisy is rampant everywhere.
Can anything be done about this outrageous blemish that reflects so badly on these fathers we so revere? How many among the signers were slaveholders? Jefferson, for one. Some of whose words, click here, as I wrote before, bear a striking similarity to others written previously by an African American arguing for his human rights.
What can be done?
An interesting if obscure point in American history is that the most U.S. presidents died on this day, two of them in the same year (1826)--John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. James Monroe, fifth president and last founding father to be president, died on the same day in 1831, five years later.
The next-largest number to die on the same day but different years is two.
On a happier note, when my grandmother, a Polish-Jewish refugree from Cossack oppression, landed on the shores of the Golden Medina at the beginning of the twentieth century, she didn't know when her birthday was, so adopted July 4 for the occasion. (Only after she died did we find an old family Bible that revealed the actual date as August 25--the actual signing of the declaration didn't begin until August 1776.)
Another monumental document in our history is the Pledge of Allegiance. Some Americans, largely atheists, object to the expression "under God" that was added later.
A friend of mine sent me a beautiful patriotic commentary on it, in honor of Independence Day. A school principal told his students that he knew that the pledge bored them as a bunch of words they had to recite every schoolday. He gifted them with an oral commentary on each line.